Fears over experimental plan to close Whitby's Swing Bridge to traffic

Concerns have been raised about an experimental plan to close Whitby’s Swing Bridge to vehicles.

Wednesday, 16th September 2020, 1:33 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th September 2020, 1:36 pm
Whitby Swing Bridge

As part of Scarborough Council’s bid for £25m in funding from the Government’s Town Fund for both Scarborough and Whitby, there is a proposal to pedestrianise the iconic Swing Bridge.

The funding bid will be submitted next month with a decision due in early 2021 but a number of schemes are already moving forward.

The Swing Bridge proposal was put forward by Whitby’s Town Deal Board, made up of local stakeholders.

North Yorkshire County Council’s (NYCC) Scarborough and Whitby Constituency Area Committee was today told that an “experimental” traffic order would be brought in by North Yorkshire County Council Highways to see how the scheme works.

Alex Richards, Scarborough Council’s regeneration officer who is leading the Town Fund bid, said the traffic order could be “turned on and off” as needed.

It is not proposed to permanently close the bridge to traffic but to stop it being used by vehicles on a temporary basis as circumstances demand.

No date has been given for when the trial could begin but the meeting was told that £400,000 in advanced funding for the experiment, which could last for six months, would be confirmed next week.

Whitby ward councillor Joe Plant said he saw the logic in closing the bridge to vehicles but feared that it would split the town in half and move traffic into other areas.

Cllr Plant said: “The impact of [the closure] on the town centre for Whitby is huge.

"The impact on the traffic when it is closed is huge.

“It is creating a massive amount of traffic both in and out of the town and that is the last thing we need.

“This could create a massive problem for traffic and for the safety of pedestrians.”

The pedestrianisation scheme, which would cost more than £2m from the Town Fund, would include the creation of a new roundabout off Church Street and would, in the words of the bid document, “reduce conflict” between vehicles and people on foot and on bikes.

The Swing Bridge, which opens to allow boats in and out of the harbour, is one of the town’s busiest areas, with pictures of people cramming to get across often seen in the summer.

Cllr Plant said he also had concerns about where taxis and buses would turn around if the bridge was closed, saying people would still need to get from one side of the town to the other, and the only means would be by the A171 bridge, known as the new bridge.

His fellow Whitby councillor David Chance added: “I’m generally a supporter of pedestrianisation but my fears here are linked around traffic flow.

“My worry is that this will impede traffic flow, we are talking about traffic going down Church Street and turning around at a new roundabout where Tin Ghaut car park is which would then turn around and send it back out.

“But there is no proposal about how to deal with that traffic when it gets back to the new bridge. I know someone who spent half an hour the other day trying to get out of that junction to turn right.”

Cllr Derek Bastiman called the idea “nonsense” and said he feared it would cause “mayhem” for traffic and drivers in the town who may have no idea if the bridge was open to vehicles or not.

He added: “It is not going to improve the traffic in Whitby one iota.”

Andrew Santon, NYCC Highways manager, told the councillors that he shared the concerns of the councillors.

He added: “I think the intention would be to have some interactive signs before traffic came down into town, whether that be via Mayfield Road or Helredale Road to advise people that there was no access from one side of town to another and that the Swing Bridge was closed.”

Mr Santon said there would be consultation with people in the area.

Helen Watson, NYCCs Highways improvement manager said it was already not uncommon for the bridge to be closed to vehicles during the summer.